Interior designer Jon Call, principal at Mr Call Designs, seems to possess an uncanny insight into the minds—and tastes—of young New Yorkers. He manages to incorporate an element of luxury into his work while still keeping his interiors simple and familiar, which is something he’s discovered that all city dwellers crave. His understanding of New York’s people, and his curiosity and openness when it comes to immersing himself in the culture around him, have made him the city’s go-to designer. We sat down to chat with Jon at his office inside NeueHouse right before New York Fashion Week and touched on topics that include how fashion inspires him, his approach to designing interiors, his thoughts on what makes New York unique, and his own style essentials and grooming techniques.
What are some of the things you’re seeing in fashion that are inspiring you right now?
What I’m seeing emerging is a completely new voice, very much inspired by athletic wear and what looks to me like 1950s James Dean Baracuta jackets with perfect monochromatic polos, and what I imagine Dockers short would look like—like very classic workman’s shorts and sneakers. That’s business casual now. It’s this really polished, incredibly made luxury sportswear that’s 100 percent American in origin. So when I start looking at that, my head just starts going cuckoo. It’s all shorts, and it’s all sneakers. I saw Timo Weiland’s show at the High Line, and his was the one that knocked my socks off.
Your clients are a younger crowd. How do you mesh what you see happening in fashion with interior design?
There’s a younger clientele of people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s in New York, specifically. They are building their homes, and they need a resource—an ally in creating something that feels just as relevant as any of the fashion shows that are happening in New York City. I’d like to think that I speak to that clientele base. Those are the people that I’m working with. We go to the same bars, we go to the same restaurants, we go to the same events and activities; I think that helps me relate to them, and that helps me create an interior that feels more organic to downtown New York.
What does a downtown New York home look like?
The spaces that we live in are so weird. Each one of us has made compromises to be where we’re at, whether it’s location, space, or amenities. It takes a real keen eye. That’s what people expect from me and want from me—to take a space that may not be what they imagined in their heads, and make it into their dreams. But it’s not as much about the curtains matching the floor coverings, matching the pillows, matching the bed skirt. That’s a beautiful aesthetic, but it doesn’t feel like young New York to me right now. Right now, it feels looser. I want [my interiors] to have this casual luxury that is really relaxed but confident. It’s where you know you can watch TV, listen to music, read books, and get on your laptop, and you know where to charge your phone. But I also want it to feel polished. I know for a fact that a dining table for eight is the biggest dream for every New Yorker. That makes me laugh because that’s very unique to our city. As New Yorkers, we kind of understand that, but when you tell people outside the city, it doesn’t make sense to them. I think if you keep it simple, familiar, and light in tone, that gives you a lot of room to have fun.
What are three staples that you think every home needs?
I think they need good electronic systems. I need to alleviate as many pieces of furniture from your home as possible, and one of the key ways of doing that is by having a good AV system. It also brings in entertainment—a sense of community, music. I think every home needs to have at least a really comfortable bed. It might sound weird if it’s out of context, but it’s because I’ve lived in so many compromising living situations in New York, where somebody might have a roommate or somebody might have four people in a two-bedroom apartment. Sometimes a bed is all you have. Then I think great lighting. I would say that the number one material I use to create my homes is light. There’s a fourth: smell, scent. Because when you walk into a home, smell is another tool for communicating what the home is, just as much as color, furnishings, light, and music. I think that just as much as we select scents for ourselves, either knowingly or unknowingly through shampoos and bar soaps, or if it’s through an actual fragrance, our home should reflect our personality as well.
You touched earlier on how those who live in New York end up compromising so much just in terms of their homes. What do you think makes New York worth all those sacrifices?
That’s easy—the people. You can stop anybody on the street and ask them why they’re in New York City. Whether it’s a tourist who is here for one day or it’s someone who's been here for 75 years—they will tell you, and they will be just as excited as the original day they came. Nobody’s here by mistake. There are so many opportunities to meet people and to be inspired, and that’s what gets me out of bed everyday.
What’s the first thing you do every morning?
Check my iPhone. I sleep with it. It’s a really bad habit. After that is music because for some reason I just need to listen to something mellow in the morning to get up. And then—I have a great terrace, it’s my luxury that I’ve afforded myself in my first apartment. I open up my French doors, and I hang out outside. After that comes the showering, the shaving, and the wardrobe.
What are your essentials to grooming?
People ask me what’s the one thing that they can do to make their home look better, and I say “cleaning.” If you just make it cleaner, it would feel better. With grooming, I feel very much the same way. I just do a clean shave every morning, then after that it’s conditioning everything. It’s super simple, but guys need to keep it simple. We need a program of three to five killer products that do everything.
What is one thing you can’t live without—one general item and one related to style?
I never feel dressed unless I’m wearing a fragrance. If I’m wearing a t-shirt, jeans, and some kicks, and I put on a fragrance, then I’m dressed. If I’m going to a black-tie event, and I put on my fragrance, then I’m dressed. There’s something in my head that has just been wired that way. I think the outfit is secondary. That’s when I feel finished. I think [scent] is a wonderful way to get to know someone. That’s one thing that I really can’t do without. The one [general item] that most immediately comes to mind is my cast iron skillet. I just found one at the Goodwill that’s perfectly seasoned and looks like it’s 30 years old. It’s 12 inches. It sits on my burner, it hasn’t left my burner, and it has cooked every meal. It’s the best pan I’ve ever had in my entire life.